20 July 2022

I Am Not Normal


“If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.”

― Maya Angelou

Earlier this year, I set out some objectives that I'll touch on right now since the year is more than half over. I'm going to try to update the blog twice a month and for the second post of each month, I think I'll do an opinion/update piece. I mentioned in March I'd address more of the questions and opinions I often receive. 

For an update, I talked about doing another book, specifically a republished and more economical version of my Jenny in Peru book. That didn't happen so my next goal was to do a magazine instead as it was much more economical than the books I was doing for $350 to $450. However, as fortune would have it, my publisher stopped doing magazines! Dang it! So I'm searching more options for that to put out publications that are in the neighborhood of $30 to $50. 

I will most definitely not get to do film photography nor acquire the film cameras I mentioned back in January. As much as I hate it, that's not a feasible option. I'm still in need of updating my current Sony cameras and am anxiously waiting to see what the Sony a7R V will be like. Those specs will determine if I get it or settle for the more available previous model. Either one will be a big upgrade for me. 

As for questions and opinions, umm.... I'm going to hit on another familiar topic that's near and dear to me. I've posted on it before. Maybe a few times, in fact. But recently, another woman asked once again, the two most widely asked questions I get:

Why do they have to be naked?

They don't. However, I mostly shoot the ones who do get naked! But nobody HAS to be anything. Some people shoot landscape. Why do they always have to have a river running through their shot? They don't. It's just their personal preference and what they are drawn to. Same with me. I've photographed women with clothes on. Even one recently and I LOVED it more than I thought I would (above). But I've done this several times. NONETHELESS, nude art has my heart better than anything else. So I photograph what I love. Following that would be Portraiture and Landscape. I've included a couple links to previous blog posts that give a more thorough explanation.

My Top 3 Passions, Part 2: The Nude - 17 May 2020

Nude vs. Naked - 23 October 2020

Why can't they be more classic and tasteful? 

This one isn't necessarily tougher, but I think it's more difficult for people to accept. But here I go...

I had a model show up to a photoshoot once and she was a bit upset. She was honest with her boyfriend about coming to shoot with me and he didn't like it. He didn't like her exposing herself to another man who took photos of her naked form. Obviously, she came anyway at the risk of the relationship. In the end of her rant she gave a most activating and galvanizing comment, referencing people like myself and her. 

"We are not NORMAL people, Terrell!"

It felt like someone had hit me in the back when she said it. My eyes opened wide and in that moment, it related us to a network of other men and women who do things a little bit differently which may not be widely accepted or understood by public and "decent" society. It was a recognition and a validation. I knew how I felt, but to have someone else not only acknowledge it, but also identify with me in it... priceless. 

Art Model, Alba

And therein lies my truth. I'm not a normal dude. Via a course of events in my life, I am where I am and who I am. I've had to do things differently than many people. For as long as I can remember, I've been different: the only black guy hiking/camping in the desert, or in my entire undergrad finance department, or as branch manager at a bank of 60 some-odd managers between Tennessee and Georgia. I was the youngest and lowest rank owning a home on my block when I lived in Tennessee. A neighbor confronted me to ask if I was a drug dealer because he could find no other reason why I could own my house at my rank. He was a Captain. I was an E-5 Sergeant. Turns out, my rate was two percentage points lower than his.

I had to learn to embrace it or let it overwhelm me. As a freshman in HS, I was in a class of, not my peers, but rather Juniors and Seniors... a Speech Class where I have to get up in front of everybody and entertain, inform, or debate them! Granted... it made me better and prepared me for SEVERAL life situations.

As a soldier, I understood I had to be different to do and endure some of the things my commanders directed me to do in order to complete the mission. Who in their right mind will stand out for days in 40 below weather? Who walks 10+ kilometers in pitch black darkness just to find a road intersection and monitor it until you are told to return? You haven't been in my shoes, so judging me is more of a reflection on you than it is me.

“Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways.” 

― Sigmund Freud

I shoot a wide range of nude art, but I'm not as interested in shooting for the purpose of creating classic nude art. "Tasteful" is not my aim because I am not certain what that means. Tasteful? Whose interpretation of it? I shoot the nude. All of the nude. I was taught this from my models and I feel like it set me free, giving me liberties to better articulate the art that is in me to create from perspectives I might not have otherwise explored. I'm not trying to be graphic. I just shoot what fits and will do a wide range of poses influenced by the environment, the model's features/demeanor/style, or simply for my mood and vision. For me, that's called freedom. 

Art Model, Panda

And quite frankly, I don't get it. If you appreciate the nude, but can't stand the sight of a vulva, what the hell! And if art is supposed to be a reflection of life and an artist's expression/interpretation of reality... is not sex a part of life? Try having life without sex and see how far it gets you. Look, I'm not totally ignorant. I know many are afraid of porn, which has a totally different connotation, and finding the distinction between art and porn is a blurred line. And rightly so. In fact... wait for next month's blog post!

Admittedly, while my art may at times be deemed explicit or gratuitous, I don't really depict sex in it hardly ever. I don't usually have models touching themselves, nor revealing themselves unmerited. There is usually purpose behind it when I do. I'm sure you noticed the operative word... USUALLY! Oftentimes, I will let a model do as she chooses and I run with it. I get my shots, but maybe I don't post everything. I might save it for later, or for a more appropriate venue. Perhaps even never allow it in public period. Just keep it between me and my model. I never know.

But the main thing is there are many conservative nude photographers out there. Several of them are friends of mine and I enjoy their work, immensely. And then I go do my own! I don't hate on nobody else. I respect their craft and I do mine. Except for Implied Nude photogs. I can put those guys in a barrel and roll them down a hill. (I used to do my brother like that. Brings back memories.) But no, I'm not fond of implied nudes.

So that's where I am in my life. That's what I do. I was all about conservative nudes when I started back in 2005. And then I had some models who set me straight. And I appreciate that so much. Because they have a story to tell, too. If my work is not for you, don't be offended and don't ask me to apologize. Instead, don't choose to look at it. Don't shoot with me. Same as if you hate spicy food. Don't eat it and don't degrade someone who loves a little heat on their tongues. If you want, come talk to me about it. I'd invite that. Otherwise, I'm cool and I hope you can still respect me, because I want to respect you.

"Photography to the amateur is recreation, to the professional it is work, and hard work too, no matter how pleasurable it my be." 

- Edward Weston

10 July 2022

Ten Options to Beat the Heat for Outdoor Photography


Art Model, Rhonda ©2010 Terrell Neasley

“It ain't the heat, it's the humility.” ~ Yogi Berra

I don't know where you live, but no matter where you are in the northern hemisphere, it's July. I know my peeps in Vegas are catching 112°F heat. That's 44°Celsius for those of you who relate more to that temp scale. Here in Hanoi, we've been getting rain to cool things down this week, but we've hit 3 digit temps, too (but maybe like 101). The heat can be insufferable and you'd be right to stay indoors. So does this mean that you need to suspend all outdoor shooting for the next 3 months? Are you now restricted to solely studio work during this time? Nope!

Both Mirrorless cameras and DSLR's have a standard operating temperature max of about 104°F. So at 112°, that sensor is cooking. Cameras that don't have weather sealing will have a tougher time in these temps, especially where humidity is a factor. And don't even think about doing video at these temps. Try to do 4K and your goose is cooked. And by goose, I'm not referring to the relatively large well-known waterfowl. I'm talking about your camera over heating with permanent sensor damage.

So let me share with you TEN (10) good options on how to keep shooting despite the hot weather.

1. Find Ways to Avoid Direct Sun on Your Camera

Art Model, Jenny, Near Tumbes, Northern Peru ©2019 Terrell Neasley

The most obvious thing is to keep the camera out of direct sunlight. Just shielding your camera with towel or covering it with a hat can go a long way. SHADE is your camera's friend. And while I'm at it, remember this tip. Treat your camera like you would your kid. DO NOT leave your camera gear sitting in the car while you go grab something out of the grocery store. It doesn't matter if you'll only be in there a minute. Take your gear with you. And it helps in preventing theft.

In Vegas heat, the plastic molding of your camera body can actually melt inside a car as the interior temperature rises to 180°F. Not only that, you can ruin the lubricants inside your camera as well as causing seals to expand beyond the factory specifications. Then you are left wondering why your lens has such a rough feel when you zoom out. Or why your shutter assembly suddenly fails. The heat affects your sensor big time. The reason you get noise when shooting at high ISOs is because of the heat produced at that level. Well you can be at ISO 100 and still get noise like that in high heat environments.

Consider keeping a ice pack or cooler handy. You can even put a frozen water bottle in your camera bag just to keep the temperature down. You don't need to put the bottle right up against the camera though. Be careful because the sudden temperature change from the cooler to the ambient air can cause condensation. If that happens, let the camera sit in the ambient air for a bit till the condensation evaporates.

2. Find the Two C's of Shade 

I've done model shoots at practically all hours of the day even in the desert heat of Nevada. What I do is simple. I seek out shaded areas in the Two C's of Shade: Canopies and Canyons. Its not that hard to find trees that afford enough cover from the sun. You can Google Map it and find adequate locations to help you. When I first moved to Las Vegas back in the day, I ran my art nude workshops at 1 pm, BUT in the shade. Some participants were a bit out of shape to handle too much heat. 

I had some who's age required less strenuous environments. I even had an actor who performed in "The Phantom of the Opera" at the Venetian. Getting a really dark tan was not in the script! Finding a strip of trees will be easiest in places that still get water such as in the low grounds of canyons. But canyons themselves can also serve shade just due to the steepness of the rocks. As long as the sun is not directly overhead, there'll be shade on one side or the other.

"Ah, summer, what power you have to make us suffer and like it." - Russell Baker

3. Find the Early Birds

Art Model, Leslie ©2013 Terrell Neasley

It's coolest earlier in the morning. So schedule shoots to be completed BEFORE 9am. By 10, the temp is already rising. Cooler temps don't return until 6pm. So schedule shoots early in the morning which means you must find models willing to be GET UP early! Usually, this is not a problem, but like most photogs, we've all got a story to tell about late starts. Oh, and don't forget extra batteries. Heat can really tax the battery power. In fact, don't leave batteries in your camera when you are not shooting. Take them out of your camera. The last thing you want is for a battery to explode INSIDE your camera. You're welcome.

4. Find a Good Night Shoot

Art Model, Anne ©2015 Terrell Neasley

Along with early morning shoots, try your hand at some night time shooting. You can get adventurous and paint with light or use the full moon as your only light source. I've done several of these, especially during a Super Moon. The model has to stay still... maybe for about an 8-second exposure. 

On the other hand, you might also consider speedlights or on-location studio lights powered with Vagabond battery packs. I've done this too. B&C Camera has some 200 to 1000w studio light options. You can buy what you need or you can simply RENT them from the B&C Rental Department. See...Too Easy!

5. Find a Great Travel Location

Member, Black Souls Motorcycle Club of
Esteli, Nicaragua photographed in Somoto

Go somewhere! Get the hell out of the heat! Do a day trip up north somewhere. It may still be as high as 90, but compared to temps in the 100s, that's the difference between heat exhaustion and heat stroke! Book a regional flight somewhere. Better yet, head south of the equator! Get a map, and start picking out places that are naturally cooler. 

In Hanoi, that's going to be heading north up into the mountains to Sa Pa, Hà Giang, or Cao Bằng. In Las Vegas, you don't even have to do that far. Check out ICE BOX CANYON! You can expect anywhere from a 10 to 15° temperature drop back in that canyon. Check out Mt. Charleston with similar temp drops. Colorado is a 10-hour drive. Get some elevation to reach the cooler temps. Again, Google Maps some of these areas and check the weather online.

"Ah, summer, what power you have to make us suffer and like it." - Russell Baker

6. Find the Melanin

Art Model, Rhonda ©2010 Terrell Neasley

Oh yeah, we're made for this heat! Talking about black people! We just hate it! People of color handle the harmful UV rays of the sun better than our melanin-deficient peers. Even so, that's not to say we are immune to the effects of UV radiation on our skin, but we can handle longer exposures to it. Sunscreen is still a requirement! If you don't work with darker-skinned people that much, quit fucking around and mix up your portfolio a little bit. Don't wait until you got 2 feet of snow. That's not our element. I mean... it could be cool, though. But master the sun first.

7. Find Outdoor Structures

Art Model, Viki Vegas ©2011 Terrell Neasley

I like coming across a weird or abandoned structure. The best I've seen is some kilns that I found on Google Earth the night before a photo shoot. I searched the area I knew I'd be in and discovered these kilns maybe 20 miles from my objective site. It was a pain and a risk taking my car onto a logging road trail, but I did it and it was worth it. It was beyond anything I could have expected.

8. Find the Clouds

Art Model, Viki Vegas ©2011 Terrell Neasley

Another option during the summer is to take advantage of cloudy days. At some point it's going to rain. In the deserts of Nevada, we get monsoon rains during July. Just check the weather reports and look for those cloudy days. 

9. Find the Water

Art Model, Covenant ©2015 Terrell Neasley

Self-explanatory, right? Easy to cool off, right? This sounds smart but you still have to be careful here. Going to the beach an have it's own problems in that you are likely in direct sun with sand reflecting it back up at you. It's easy to get caught up in your photoshoot and forget to be smart under that sun when it's cooking your brain. Even with the water, limit your time in the sun. If you can, look for a water source in the canyons/valleys that may be covered under a tree canopy. 

10. Find Wisdom

Art Model, Panda ©2014 Terrell Neasley

You definitely have to be smart about this. Be wise. Don't be stupid. Take NO unnecessary risks. Bring more water than you think you'll need. Bring a buddy whose sole purpose is to be a second pair of observant eyes, pack more water, AND who can assist in case something bad happens. If it's just you and a model and one of you goes down from a twisted ankle, having somebody else there is a blessing. And be sure to take care of yourself, as well. Sunscreen. A wide-brim hat. Light-weight clothing covering exposed skin. And most importantly... HYDRATE!!! Even if you are not thirsty, drink water anyway.

So there you go. 10 good tips to keep shooting despite the hot weather. Be smart, but most of all, be safe. Happy Shooting! Hydrate, DAMMIT!!

24 June 2022

What's So Cool About Black and White Photography


Anonymous Abstract Portrait, Hanoi 2021

“Color is descriptive. Black and white is interpretive.” 
– Eliott Erwitt

The evolution of color has taken us to new depths of imagination and has answered many questions on what is possible. Virtually any camera can see 16 million different colors or shades of a color. The very nature of color can't be discussed without talking about the color wheel, color spectrum, color theory, color grading, or color space. We get taught our colors in primary school and our first notion of a social class is determined by the size of your box of Crayola Crayons. Nope, I never had that box of 64 with the sharpener in the back. Mama said, I'd never use more than 16. 

So why would we ever photograph anything in Black and White or change a color photograph to a stripped down monochromatic version of itself? Or even crazier, why buy a camera for $8,000 that ONLY shoots B&W? Well, here are a few good reasons why Black and White (monochrome) photography has remained so relevant.

River nude shot with Leica M Monochrome Type 246 with the 35mm Summicron on loan from Leica. They didn't appreciate me taking it out to the river, though. 

1. The Distraction of Color - The very first time this was explained to me, I didn't really see it. How is color a distraction? It's the real world as our brain perceives it! But I began photography with B&W film... Agfa, Kodak TMAX, Fomapan, Tri-X, Arista-EDU. All these were brands of film that had different qualities that rendered B&W tones that suited your style or purpose. 

The absence of color in a composition left a photo with a clearer view of it's fundamental elements. You saw lines, shapes, shadow/light values, and  contrast better. Texture popped out. It gave you a sense of form and balance within an image. Layering of depth and focus points become easily apparent and appreciated because you have reduced the photo to the basics and left it with only the properties that it needs by eliminating the frivolous.

Hanoi, Urban Rooftops, 2020 Sony a7rMkII

2. Creates Drama - Fine Art Photography is all about emotion. How does a composition make you feel? Emotion is moved and manipulated via drama. A landscape photo with dramatic clouds can be further emphasized in Black & White because of the deeper tonal values and separation of highlight and shadow. But it also brings out facial emotions in street photography, portraits, and documentary work. If emotion is the primary target, go Black and White. If there is no relevant color information anyway, such as in some architecture photography, go Black and White.

Up in the Andes Mountains of Southern Peru

3. Timelessness - Photography began it's existence in Black and White. It took 140 years before color became widely used. Many of the greatest and most influential photos taken in the world were done in B&W. It speaks to history, significance, and originality. It is almost synonymous with artistic style. That creditability is so consequential that when you turn a photograph B&W today, it borrows from our timeless past. We give it historical or artistic value just by losing the color, which has a tendency to modernize any photo.

Shot with film, 2006 Art Model, Mary posing on the side of a friggin' cliff. That's a bridge far below.

“Black and white creates a strange dreamscape that color never can.”  

– Jack Antonoff

4. Artsy - And speaking of artistic value... what is the number 1 thing we do when we want to "save" a bad color photo? Turn it Black and White! Instant improvement! And this is never better served more so than in abstract art, but not only that. Look up the most historically significant photos to date, almost all are Black and White or at least monochromatic. Interestingly enough, this mainly works in the medium of photographic art. How many black and white paintings do you see?

Just me...

5. Easier on the Camera - This probably sounds like a trivial excuse to use Black and White, but hear me out. We're talking about helping the camera take a better picture. The camera can't see color at all. It only translates electrical signals as it gathers photons of light. Sensor tech uses color filters and algorithms and processors to determine the quantity of red, green, or blue, thus deriving all the other colors from those primary ones. 

Well, when the camera doesn't have to work so hard for determining if a light signal is red, green, or blue... all it has to do is register tonal value! What do you get from that, deeper dynamic range and more latitude! Now you can partially understand why Leica makes an $8K camera. I've shot with it and it's remarkable! Hence the pic above.

Art Model, Katherine with Hades. Hades isn't a colorful hawk. Black and White is fine.

Understandably, color still has a significant roll in photography. You do NOT change everything to B&W. You use color when it is part of the narrative, needs to appeal to a wide audience such as in marketing, and most significantly in video production. I photographed a playground once to test my theory in this. There was a definitive loss in the narrative when you miss out on the vibrant color of the playground. 

Do wildlife photography and photograph a lion. No problem, you can go B&W or color. But try photographing a bird in the wild that has a distinct colorful plumage, like my personal favorite, the Kingfisher, and you've done yourself a disservice if you reduce it to monochrome values. Show me a rose without its color and I'll show you a failed experiment. Learn the difference and apply that wisdom well.

05 June 2022

How to Shoot Prime Lenses


Art Model, Trixie ©2017 Terrell Neasley

Prime lenses can be challenging to shoot with if you are used to using zoom lenses. However in all truth, they simplify your shooting experience more than they challenge it. Old school shooters used DSLRs with a 50mm 1.8, a 35mm, or maybe even a rangefinder style 24mm that was non-removable. 

So what are some of the difficulties of shooting with prime lenses. In truth, there is only one and that's the fact that prime lenses do not zoom. All other issues people talk about usually stem from that one main thing. 

1. Missing the range of a zoom's versatility

2. Changing lenses all the time

3. Having to move around

4. Can't use it if you are in a tight space without a wide-angle lens

Art Model, Trixie ©2017 Terrell Neasley

First, go back and look at my previous blog post, "The Case for Prime Lenses" to see the benefits of shooting primes. The trade-offs might be enough for you to forget about these minor infringements. If you're still having a tough time seeing it, then read on.

None of the cons of a prime lens inhibit your ability to make a good shot. Unless, that is, if you want to make your photographs from the comfort of a recliner with cup holders and a foot rest. If that is the case, then I will concede your point right here.

Art Model, Trixie ©2017 Terrell Neasley

However, I'd wager this is not the case. Prime lenses simply make you an active shooter, but in a good way. You become more engaged and alive. You bring in more movement and it pushes you to "see" and become more creative as your continue to work and gain experience. Dare I say it, it could be considered exercise! Because you will activate and engage photographic muscles that don't get developed as well when you use a zoom lens. 

Here is what you do. Get used to using your feet. Have a comfortable pair of shoes. This doesn't mean you need hiking boots. Just something comfortable to walk in, at least. If you are outdoors in the backcountry, then yeah... have some boots. Just make sure you are comfortable in them so you aren't tiring too quickly as you move around.

Art Model, Trixie ©2017 Terrell Neasley

Understand your shot selection and shoot according to the lens needed. For instance. Moving your person back and forth will usually suffice when you are using a lens in a single perspective. if you have a need to shoot at 50mm you can move in to get a 70mm perspective. It's practically the same. However, when necessary, get all your wide perspective in one group. Then change lenses and get all your portrait perspectives. See what I'm saying. Don't mix the two. If you do, you'll be switching lenses more than necessary, going back and forth more often than you need. 

As far as tight spaces go... well hell. You'll have that problem even if you have a zoom lens. The answer is simple... know your location and shot selection requirements. Then bring the gear necessary to accomplish the goals. 

I get it. Some locations aren't planned. Sometimes, you have a camera kit and see something spontaneously and it just doesn't work. Well, chances are, you'll run into the same problem with a zoom. In that case, you have to live with the hard lesson all photogs have to learn: You're not going to get every shot. Sometimes, you don't have the right gear. Sometimes, autofocus misses. Sometimes, there isn't enough light. Live with it and try to learn from the experience. 

Art Model, Trixie ©2017 Terrell Neasley

You should be able to cover 85% of your shots at all times with your gear. That's 85% of what you traditionally do. If you don't shoot wildlife, don't be pissed because you missed a rare sighting of a Blue-Eyed Ground Dove (Columbina Cyanopis) because you don't have a 600mm 1.4 lens. No... that's not your gig. Eighty-Five percent of all I do is covered between my 24mm 1.4, 55mm 1.8, and my 90mm 2.8 macro. The far away stuff, I let it go or get the best I can with it and maybe crop-in. If you endeavor to stand out, don't look for safe, security, easy, or SOS (Same Old Sh*t as everybody else is doing). Be like Trixie. Trixie don't do safe. Her brilliance will likely leave you feeling less secure about your own. Nothing about her is easy (Except for her hospitality! You will get drunk!) And she definitely does not put up with SOS people. Be a Trixie!

30 May 2022

Hearing Good Things About Tamron's 35-150mm f/2-2.8


“We travel, some of us forever, to seek other places, other lives, other souls.” 

– Anais Nin

Tamron has been a dabbling in optical manufacturing for 70 years and their technologies have improved through superb R&D, Acquisitions, and Strategic Partnerships. They've made lenses not just for cameras, but optics for binoculars, cell phones, telescopes, CCTV and surveillance cameras, and lenses for automobile applications (does that mean Tesla? Not sure.) You name it, they got glass for it.

But let's stick to photography. That's what I'm familiar with. Tamron is known for their affordable 3rd party lens options. Fifteen years ago, you could get a comparable alterative to some of your brand selections. If you bought a Canon Camera but bristled at expensive lens options, then you could find a quality Tamron equivalent to get the job done for half the cost, especially for crop-sensor cameras.

Then Tamron upped the ante and began competing for the full-frame market. I can tell you that when I switched to Nikon, their 24-70mm lens did not resolve well enough for their new high resolution D800e DSLR. I tried different copies of the lens and was not satisfied. I can't say what made me try the Tamron, but it was an instant improvement. It beat Nikon's own lens!

So when I heard about Tamron's new 35-150mm f/2-2.8 Di III VXD Lens, it definitely got me curious. An f/2 wide-angle zooming out to 150mm telephoto and only losing one stop? Really? Granted 35mm is on the cusp of being called wide angle. But 150mm is definitely telephoto. And Tamron is known for their odd focal length zooms. 

The reviews are great on this thing. I'd be anxious to try it! But even so, a few things hold me back on it being a definite buy for me:

1. I've been strictly prime for 4 years! I've been served well using a 24mm prime and a 55mm prime. All I'm truly missing is my 90mm macro.

2. I've hardly ever done telephoto work in all my years shooting. Most everything has been up close preferring to shoot normal to wide-angle, or macro.

3. The weight! This thing is every bit of 2 and a half pounds (1165g)! I don't know if I can swing that as a traveler who has to carry everything I own on my back or in a camera bag slung across my shoulder. It's not the heaviest lens I've ever owned. Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II was 3 and a quarter pounds but I carried it in a Pelican hard case that had rollers and a handle which I put in the pack seat of my car! 

4. That hefty price! The lens is $1,900. It's not much for what you are asking it to do. That's about $600 more than I've paid for any Tamron lens I've owned, however. 

Why even consider it? I mean... DANG! My travel plans have become far different from what I imagined when I initially set out. When I set out, I imagined 18 months. That's it. It's been 52 months! And I'm not even done in Vietnam yet! And in that time, YES... I have run across a FEW situations when I wished I had some longer reach! Not often, but enough to where my imaginations took me to the Sony FE 24-105mm f/4 G OSS... or Tamron 28-200mm f/2.8-5.6.

I wish I could just put it behind me! But it seems like every dog gone week, there's another review about how surprisingly impressive the Tamron 35-150mm is. But I may as well dispense with any notion of this lens until I get back stateside. When will that be? I'm working on it! 

16 May 2022

Fix Your Procrastination

“Procrastination is like masturbation. At first it feels good, but in the end you’re only screwing yourself.”
~ Unknown

I know many of us declared at the beginning of this year that you were going to finally get to that "Dream" project that you've been putting off for a few years so far. Well! You're in luck. There's still plenty of time left in the year to get your butt in gear and get to working on that gig so you can start some new promises for 2022. So yeah, this is a reminder that you are now midway through the year to get busy and get hot on that project. I know you have to work. The summer is coming up. Busy, Busy, Busy, as a little bee. That's cool. Everybody's busy. But honestly. How long does it take to conceptualize your dream, plan it out, secure a location/model/prop/equipment and get it in the books? The answer is not long once you commit to the idea.

Let me help you out a bit. Start here: Tell yourself, "No matter what, I WILL get this project done!". Then sit down for a minute. Got no time? Sure you do. You're human. That means you require food and water. At some point you're gonna have to go to spend a little time in the bathroom... a few minutes at least. Sooo, can you see where I'm going with this. No? Fine, I'll spell it out. Take a pad and pen into the bathroom with you the next time you have to "spend some quality time" in there. While you are sitting down for a few minutes, this is an excellent time to conceptualize, write down ideas, and think about how you're going to pull this thing off and what you'll need. You don't need to spend a whole day in the bathroom, just enough time to get pen to paper and get those ideas out before your legs go to sleep.

See, that's a guaranteed few minutes every day! You don't need much more than that. And once you've got it written down, you can commit some time while you go about your regular day. On your way home from work, you can call up that fave model of yours and ask about her availability. Gotta pick up groceries from the store? Great. Stop by the hardware store right next to it and get the materials for the set you have to build. Or maybe its as simple as getting some gear. B&C Camera has a bunch of cameras, lenses, and lights you can rent for the weekend. You can easily reserve what you need ahead of time, pick it up Friday and return it Monday. So if you require a macro lens, they got it. Prefer a wide-angle lens instead...they got it. What about some lighting? They have 2-light, 3-light wireless trigger kits complete with soft boxes and stands that you can get for about $40 for the entire weekend. If you're not in Vegas, check out some online rentals like LensRentals.com or BorrowLenses.com.

“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.”
~ Walt Disney

Need some ideas? Okay. Do that thing you normally do, but this time shoot it at night. Just try some long exposure stuff for a change. Add some light painting. Take that flash off TTL and use some of its other functions. Ever drag the shutter with it? Ever do any high-speed sync work on it? How about some stroboscopic techniques? Ever do that? Try some macro work. Do something in that remote location that you came across while hiking last year, next to that goofy looking tree your friend took a picture of you climbing. 

Work on that self-portrait project you've been saying you were going to do. Try to emulate a lighting style you saw in that movie poster your girl/boyfriend likes so much. Here's another one. Freeze the action on a quick-moving subject. Like a dancer spinning around, where you capture every single strand of hair frozen in space with no blurring. You now have 40 days left to get your project done. Don't procrastinate any longer than you already have. If you think I'm speaking to you, I am. Get started. No more excuses. Go Shoot.

20 April 2022

The Case for Prime Lenses


Art Model, Alba ©2021 Terrell Neasley 
Shot on Sony a6500, 55mm, 1/30th, f/1.8, ISO 640

It may not be a well-known fact about me, but I like to shoot with prime lenses more than I do zoom lenses. Yep, it's the truth! And this is a preference for me that has developed from years of experience with both types of lenses. Over time, my palate has been refined to a different taste and zooms lenses have become baloney to my "prime" steaks.

I began photography shooting zooms. Before I even understood zooms, I figured a small number that goes to a big number was the shit. So a 55mm that zoomed to 250mm was big stuff. Then I came to realize my ignorance and switched to the trifecta of lenses, the 16-35mm, 24-70mm, and the 70-200mm... all f/2.8! I ran with this for a long time and eventually added my first prime, the 85mm 1.2! That's correct. My first prime was a $2500 lens and not the $100 nifty-fifty 1.8. 

Art Model, Alba ©2021 Terrell Neasley 
Shot on Sony a6500, 24mm, 1/10th, f/5.6, ISO 3200

The 85 1.2 is where it started and where I first learned real speed in a lens. F/2.8 USED to be fast glass. F/1.2?? Now that's speed! But what good was this speed? How often would I need this speed? Yes, I like fast glass, but honestly, it's a bit over-rated. I shoot in the dark a lot, so it comes in handy, but rarely do I find myself needing 1.2 shallowness as a travel photographer. Two-Eight is still really good and so is One-Eight. That being said... don't kid yourself. F 1.4 is the standard. 

But the more true reason I'm all primes now is the quality of my work and that's all that should matter. And I'm not talking just sharpness, but that's high on the list of considerations when you're shooting a high-resolution camera system. What I DON'T get from a Prime lens is also important. I don't get chromatic aberrations. I don't get a lot of vignette. Distortion is also minimized. And when I do get a little barreling when shooting my Sony 24 1.4 G-Master, it's pretty much auto-corrected when I begin editing using lens profiles. I also don't get any gravitational lensing in my work. Shit... sorry. Mixing astrophysics into my photography. I do that sometimes.

Art Model, Alba ©2021 Terrell Neasley 
Shot on Sony a6500, 24mm, 1/50th, f/2.8, ISO 100

Anytime you consider the pros and advantages of something, it's fair to do cons and disadvantages. However here's the thing... with prime lens, the Number 1 disadvantage is a PRO for me!

Yep, I said that right and that's what you read. Ask anyone. The biggest disadvantage for primes is the fixed focal length. It only has one. It's such an disadvantage that they made it the name of the alternative to prime lenses... Zoom Lenses. Having a fixed or singular focal length means you CANNOT zoom to a greater or lesser focal length.

What's a focal length? That's the first number you use to describe a lens. You refer to it in millimeters, such as a 24mm lens. A 200 millimeter lens. Twenty-Four to Seventy Millimeter lens. Like that... see?

Art Model, Alba ©2021 Terrell Neasley 
Shot on Sony a7r2, 24mm Macro, 1/80th, f/2.8, ISO 400

If there is one number, it's a prime. Prime, meaning one. If there are two numbers, it's a zoom. You can zoom from one focal length to another. Sometimes that zoom range will be short and sometimes long. A 16-35mm lens is short focal range, but typical for a wide-angle lens. A 28-300mm lens is considered to be an all-in-one lens with a long zoom range. 

A point of fact to understand is that focal length has nothing to do with the Angle of View for a lens. Wide-angle vs Telephoto isn't defined by millimeters. It's defined by degrees. Focal length is an actual distance defined by the distance between the point of convergence and the sensor (or film plane). Click on the highlighted text for illustrations of this. 

Art Model, Alba ©2021 Terrell Neasley 
Shot on Sony a7r2, 55mm, 1/40th, f/1.8, ISO 640

So back to my point. How is the main disadvantage of a prime lens a PRO for me? In a nutshell, it helps me develop as a photographer. A prime lens makes turns ME into the Zoom function. If I need a closer perspective (Zoom in) I move my feet! If I need to zoom out, I move my feet! In either case, I am choosing my composition and interacting with my subject. It makes me more involved to make these choices and since it is not something as unconscious as spinning a zoom ring on a lens, I become more purposeful and more focused on what my selections are. I think about my composition more. I do not do it as an afterthought while operating the camera. I become more resolved and the reasons for making those specific choices are much more conscious and deliberate. I am better for it, because I took the control away from my tool and did it myself. 

Light has to travel through more glass and air inside the barrel of a zoom lens. This makes it more prone to light loss and diffraction as it bounces around the inside of the lens. It's manipulated through more glass of various concave and convex shapes on its way to the point of convergence before it hits your sensor. This can vary the degree of sharpness from one photo to the next as well as introduce chromatic aberrations and vignettes.

Art Model, Alba ©2021 Terrell Neasley 
Shot on Sony a7r2, 55mm, 1/60th, f/3.5, ISO 100

I enjoy shooting with prime lenses, even when I am forced to change lenses from my 24mm to my 55mm lens. I shoot wide to standard. Rarely do I shoot telephoto anymore. It's not my genre and hardly ever has it been so. I noticed this 10 years ago while doing a lens profile on my photos and less than 10% of my images where shot on anything longer than 90 or 100 millimeters. 

I don't say I'll never use zooms. I'm even thinking about the Tamron 35-150. I'm a travel photographer but not all my work needs to be artistic. Sometimes I just want to see further out and get that shot. And I don't knock zooms either. The 24-70 served me well! But as I said, I refined my tastes and prime lenses suit me better. They might even be more expensive in some cases. But I get my speed. They are often smaller and lighter weight. And as I've stated, the quality is unmatched. The 24 to 70 is badass. But I prefer a 24mm lens and a 55mm lens. And soon to have... a 105mm Macro!

Art Model, Alba ©2021 Terrell Neasley 
Shot on Sony a7r2, 55mm, 1/60th, f/1.8, ISO 100

10 April 2022

Less is More... Stop Shooting So Damn Much!

 "Art is the elimination of the unnecessary."

 –Pablo Picasso
Absolutely nothing fast about 12 shots per roll, Hasselblad 501c film camera with prism viewfinder

There is this one scene in "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" between actors Sean Penn and Ben Stiller that epitomizes a concept that I think is often forgotten among photographers as well as people just taking pics. Not every memory needs to be captured by a camera. Not every moment needs to be immortalized on a "memory" stick. There are some instances when the camera does more harm than good. To paraphrase Sean Penn's character in the embedded video, "The camera can be a distraction." And that's what I want to talk about a little bit here.

I've had a few moments like this when I chose not to bring my camera on a trip. I actually got vilified mainly because, "I was wasting opportunities..." and "I may never get to return to this place..." and so forth. That's not the way I looked at it. There have been more than one occasion of these instances, but in this particular situation, I wanted to enjoy my time with a friend who wasn't a photographer and I didn't want to spend all my time "needing to get the shot". Otherwise, I would have ended up neglecting the companionship for which I traveled there for in the first place.

Simplicity, Copyright 2010 Terrell Neasley

Here's another reason you don't need to take a picture of everything. Petapixel.com once did a post on their popular blog an article by the British Psychological Society that they titled, "Simply Snapping a Photo Harms Your Memories of Things, Study Finds". Now their study requires a bit more research, I'm sure. They use a base their finding, per the article, based on a sample size of 50 undergraduate students. 5000 students would have been more convincing, but the findings are nonetheless comparable to my own experiences, albeit not as measurable scientifically.

Put the damn camera down! I've talked about this before. Look around yourself and just enjoy the moment for what it is. At the very least, slow down. Get a few shots and stop. Blasting on rapid fire mode trying to capture everything tends to make you lose the gift of the memory and here are three reasons why this makes sense:

One... Repetitively speaking, your mind won't feel the need to remember something you know is already recorded when you establish this as a habit. It takes the work away from the brain. No need to commit a visual to long term memory when you think you've captured every aspect of it with 312 shots of one scene.

TWO... Odds are, you're never gonna go back and look at those pics. They'll stay on your SD card or computer hard drive. And there's a stronger propensity that nobody else is going to want to look at those pics even if you did pull them out. Think about it. NOBODY CARES! Who wants to sit and mull through all 1,538 of your vacation photos. After a while, even you'll get tired of the 11th image of the same scene and start fast forwarding through to find the good ones. And if you look like you're bored, why should anybody else sit through them.

And Three... You create so much extra work for yourself. When you download all those filled-to-capacity SD cards, or whatever storage media you are using, a few things take place. You realize you have to go through all those photos! AND now you have clogged up your hard drive with a bunch of nonsense. A few months down the road, you'll be at your max capacity on your hard drive and then going through folders to see what shots you can eliminate. Save your brain the stress and your hard drive the unnecessary wear. 

Copyright 2012 Terrell Neasley

"It’s not the daily increase but daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential."
 –Bruce Lee

Here is one more reason why you won't remember so well and why the camera can be a distraction. When the camera comes between you and a memory, think about why you actually see versus what the camera sees. When you take in a moment without the camera, you have almost a 180 hemisphere of sight in front of you. Not only that, but ALL of your senses can become engaged in that moment. You remember the aroma of the honeysuckle that has completely engulfed the fence that your kids are playing next to in a mud puddle. You can hear the low hum of all the bees and wonder if you should have the kids play elsewhere, but rationalize that you are being over-protective until the youngest one grabs a bee and is stung.

Copyright 2012 Terrell Neasley

All that makes for a story and engraves that memory in your brain. You are totally engrossed in that moment and are capturing information using all your senses. Now try to think of that same scene but now, close off all your senses except for your sight, because that's the only one you are paying attention to. Then take an empty paper towel roll and view that same scene looking through it. Can you visualize that? How much information is actually being recorded to your brain? Not much! You've limited yourself to tunnel vision and sounds and smells have no relevancy any more.

And show some respect, like my friend Marci in a museum. Do you really need to take pics of someone else's art? Put the camera down. Use your eyes. Record it to your brain. Its not your responsibility to have something to show the next guy. Let them come to the museum on their own and experience it in person. Your job isn't to record and share with the world for sake of posterity. If anything, come back with a story! Tell that! Motivate others to visit that museum!

Shoot less. Otherwise you cheat yourself.